Kazakhstan lifts ban on Russian rocket launches

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ASTANA, Oct 24 (Reuters) Kazakhstan, home to Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome, has lifted a ban on launches of Russian Proton rockets that was imposed after one of them crashed, the government said today.

Kazakhstan halted Proton launches last month when the unmanned booster, filled with highly toxic heptyl fuel, rammed into open countryside near the industrial city of Zhezkazgan.

The coincidental proximity of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was visiting the region at the time of the crash, also fuelled Kazakhstan's anger.

The government said it decided to lift the ban after receiving reassurance from Moscow that it would do its best to establish the exact cause of the crash.

Russia rents Baikonur, the world's biggest space launch facility set up by the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s, under a long-term contract with Kazakhstan, which became an independent state after the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991.

Reuters AE DB2234

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